Thursday, April 30, 2009
In my Google Reader:
Over 250 blog posts.
I am reading them all! But only commenting when I actually have an opinion/something worthy to say. So if I don't comment on your blog, please don't think I love you less. My mind is simply mush.
ALSO: I am going to be revising my link lists soon. Here is the list of blogs that I follow. If I comment on your blog, no worries, I follow you. But if for some reason I happened to miss you (and I'm sure I've missed some, because in the recent rush of new followers, I know I've not caught up on clicking links), and would like me to check out your blog/add it to my list/share some linky-love....then please, add a link here! One of my weekend goals is to clean up my Reader and links list.
Complete progress reports for over 100 kids Grade essays Work on critiques for friends Update blog Work out family plans for weekend Get over writing hump and start back up on novel Save world from zombie-fied ninjas...but keep it a secret in order to preserve humility
- Finally, finally, get back to a regular writing schedule
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Class: We get to use crayons?! YES!
Kid: Look! I color-coded Hell!
Other Kid: Look at my Hell! It's got a smiley-face sun! It's a happy hell!
Another Kid: Well, I can make my Hell prettier than your Hell.
Note: These kids are sixteen years old.
One reason why I was so blergh yesterday was because I'd been stuck on a certain scene in my novel since last Friday. I know what happens after that scene, but I somehow just couldn't get the characters where I needed them to be. Then I read Robyn's post on what to do when you get stuck, and that got me thinking about writing methods I've used to get over the hump.
- Identify the problem: For me, I typically get stuck right before something big happens. For example, in my current WIP, I've got a murder mystery (set in space!) and I was stuck at the point where the protags get together and discuss who they think dunnit and why. But sitting around and talking = boring. Hence, I was stuck.
- Figure out what needs to happen next: So, the next thing I did was brainstorm where I needed the characters to go after discovering this. There's a lot of layers of mystery in this one, and I had to be sure to drop certain clues: I needed one character to start to show signs of depression, one character to add an emotional level to their motivation, and I knew I couldn't have them sit around and talk for too long or it would be boring.
- Figure out the logical next steps based on character motivation: One problem I think many writers have--myself most definitely included--is remembering character motivation. We know we need the characters to get to point B from point A, but we sometimes forget about the why in our hurry just to get them there. So if you're stuck, evaluating your character's motivation always seems to help.
- Go back to pacing: Typically, when I'm stuck, the pace is too slow. Blow something up, make someone cry, drop in a ticking clock, something to ramp up the pace and just get them going. (Side note: ironically enough, I usually have to look at the opposite--slowing pace--when revising, to make sure the charcaters shine through the plot.) More than likely, if you're stuck, you're stuck because either something that needs to happen hasn't happened yet (so make it happen already!) or so much is happening that you've lost the storyline (so slow stuff down and let your characters breathe).
This method may not work for everyone (I don't think it'll help Robyn, for example, as she's stuck on a beginning chapter, not a middle one...so if you've got advice for that, drop her a line), but it certainly worked for me! I've left the blergh behind and wrote two new chapters last night!
...now if only progress reports weren't do tomorrow...
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
And one of the biggest technological marketing successes for Savvy so far has been the week-long free e-book download offered last summer, which was a factor in propelling the book onto the New York Times Bestsellers list for the first time.Now, I have been a long time fan of the give-it-away-for-free-and-they'll-buy-it camp: ever since my Napster days in college, actually, but more recently with things such as free e-books or free downloads of audio books.
I've quoted it here before, but I feel it's worth saying again:
Monday, April 27, 2009
I told him, "if I actually did get 100, I should totally do something for them. But it's not like I'll actually get 100."
Today, I've got 103 followers.
So you know what?
There will be TWO winners of the massive book-giveaway. Whoever gets drawn first get's the group of books they wanted...whoever gets drawn second gets the other group of books.
Well, I'm having a fight with my manuscript right now, so instead of love, I'm arguing that your manuscript is really like someone you knew from high school. Like Mike Gross, that creepy kid who sat behind me in Geometry and picked his nose. Yeah, manuscript, you're like that.
Just kidding manuscript. I love you. You're not mad at me are you? Please be my friend again, I hate it when we fight.
...So, without further ado, here's your manuscript in high school!
- The popular jock: You're the nerdy girl. He's the god of high school. What wouldn't you give to get to know him better? This is your manuscript before you get to know him, when you worship him from afar and he's just this perfect ideal in the back of your mind.
- The uber-smart kid: You can't compete with this one. He is SO SMART. And even if he's a little nerdy, you know the only reason you don't sit with him at lunch is because you're afraid you'll look like an idiot in front of him. This is your manuscript when you start. You've got this great idea: can you translate it onto the paper? Are you a good enough writer for this idea?
- The bff you've known forever: You know her backwards and forwards. You share ever secret. You'll be friends forever, right? This is the manuscript you're just rewriting...over...and over...and over. Don't be afraid to find/write someone new!
- That ugly kid who has a crush on you but who you, like, think is way gross: This is the kid who you know likes you...but ugh! It doesn't matter that he's good at heart, that all he needs is a comb and some zit cream...you can't stand him and wish he'd just leave you alone! This is your manuscript when you have writer's block. You know there's ways to fix him, you know he's got a good heart and he's really not that bad...but you can't stand him right now. Give it a little bit. We've all seen the classic teen movies: it's the ugly boys who get the girl in the end!
- The stoner: He sits in the back of the classroom (when he remembers to show up) with red-rimmed eyes. He's not that much more than a lump, although sometimes he has flashes of brilliance. This lazy guy? He's your manuscript when you're not willing to revise. Sure, there's some bright points in there, but overall, it's a lump: you're going to have to clean this guy up for him to compete.
- The new girl at school: She's a little weird. Definitely different. And no one sits with her at lunch. Will you? She's that new genre/style/tone/POV/voice/whatever you'd like to try out, but are always afraid to. Everything you've written is in first person? Why not give third person a try. You like romance, but not erotica? Try out some YA for size and see how that works for you. Don't be afraid of new things!
- The drop-out: She's an expert at being a freshman: after all, she's been one for four years. And then one day she drops out. Maybe you'll see her again at McDonald's...This is the manuscript you abandoned. Maybe you shouldn't have--maybe there was potential underneath all that sarcasm--but in the end, you had to make a choice and drop it. This isn't a bad thing (not at all--if it's not working, it's not working). But the important thing is to keep on writing, and try something new...with a manuscript you can see go all the way.
- The valedictorian: They've got it all. Brains. Brawn. Football star/head cheerleader. And, to top it all off, they're actually nice, too. The top of the class, beloved by all....this is your manuscript after four years of high school (read: after pain-staking hours of critiques), FINALLY ready to graduate (read: finally ready to submit)...and you know this one is going to go far.
- The teachers: There are some books out there that teach you good things....and some that only teach you how not to be. As you read (and you should be reading, all you writers out there) don't forget about how you can learn both good and bad things about writing from teacher-books...and don't try to be the teacher, try to take what you learn from the teacher and make it new and different!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
We both know that both of those people were foolish in their approach.
But how long should we query? I queried my first manuscript for over a year--I queried my last one for a month before pulling it out of submissions for rewrites.
BookEnds, LLC has what I think is the best advice--and what I have fallen into as practice just by chance.
In short: write a novel, revise the novel, being querying, begin writing new novel. By the time you finish the new novel, pull out the original. Repeat until success.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I adore signed copies of books, but this one has the added benefit of looking freaking AWESOME! Don't believe me? Check out Cindy's trailer posted by Heather--it's one of the best trailers I've seen for a book EVAR.
Friday, April 24, 2009
That said, one tool that I'm finding particularly helpful is...Twitter.
Which surprises me. I've found Facebook helpful to get in contact with writers--my last two interviews on this blog were done through initial Facebook contact. But I've viewed Twitter as an almost throw-away...another way to network, sure, but not really useful.
Colleen Lindsey is changing all that.
Besides being the brain-power behind #queryfail and #queryday on Twitter, she's also begun doing #askagent posts. Last night, as I was about to go to bed, I popped on Twitter. Colleen posted a tweet about how she would be taking questions for agents for the next hour. Soon, Jenny Rapaport and Literaticat joined.
As I'm working on a YA SF novel, I immediately asked about the market: where they saw YA SF in the future, how close were YA SF and science fantasy. Others asked about daily life of an agent, publicity, and other marketing questions.
It only lasted for about an hour or so (the agents each volunteered an hour, but started at different times). Because it was unannounced, it was less crowded than #queryday, and my questions were answered within seconds of posting...which enabled me to easily ask follow-up questions.
It's unfeasible for pre-published writers to meet with agents and discuss the publishing world in real life. But #askagent on Twitter felt like I walked into a bar with three agents and was able to discuss publishing while waiting for the bartender to pull my beer. THIS is what I'd like to see Twitter become: Cheers.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I mentioned before how I cleaned out my bookshelves in order to prevent my office from caving in. Now it's time to give away those books!
Since I've got SO many books to give-away, I'm going to split this up into TWO different give aways. I've split the books up so that there's one group that's a bit more YA and more actiony-adventurey, and the other group is a bit more MG and fairy-tale-ish.
The only thing you've got to do?
Pick a set of books you want!
Just make a comment to this post telling which of the two sets of books that you'd like the most.
+1 Become a follower of my blog
+2 You were a follower of my blog before the contest (I know who you are)
+1 You refer someone to this blog (and they tell me they got here from you)
+1 Post a link to this in your blog/website/twitter/facebook/whatever (we'll do one point per post, how about that?)
Please let me know how many points you get in your post, and links to where you link to me, please!
-Contest ends May 16
-I'm only shipping in the continental US (sorry, but I'm poor!)
-I'm giving one set of books away this round--whoever wins the drawing wins the book selection of their choice. I'll give away the second set of books some other time.
-FYI: These books were all read once (by me) but I take very good care of my books, and you probably won't even notice the wear. Just wanted some full disclosure here.
GROUP ONE: FAERIE-ISH (Plus American History)
Books in this group: The Faerie Path byFrewin Jones, The Tail of Emily Windsnap and Emily Windsnap and the Monster from the Deep by Liz Kessler, Peril at King's Creek (An American Girl Felicty Mystery), Gossamer by Lois Lowry, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
GROUP TWO: ADVENTUREY! (Plus Graduation)
Books Included: Genius Squad by Catherine Jinks (hardback), The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor (hardback), Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner, The Graduation of Jake Moon by Barbara Park, The Bar Code Tattoo and The Bar Code Rebellion by Suzanne Weyn
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Kid: So, a preacher is a priest in Catholicism?
Me: Yup, but a priest is a little different from a preacher. A priest doesn't get married, and he swears a vow of chastity. *before the inevitable question* That means they can't have sex.
Kid: NO SEX?!
Me: Nope. None. They're not even supposed to think about it.
Kid: Even the Pope.
Me: Even the Pope.
Kid: But what if he can't help it?
Kid 2: Yeah, what if he sees a hot girl? He can't help thinking about it then.
Kid 3: What if, like, the hot girl just flashes him. It's not his fault she flashes him. I bet he'd have all kinds of sexy thoughts if the hot girl flashes him.
*murmurs of agreement*
Me: NO ONE IS FLASHING THE POPE!
For me, the fun of writing is discovering the story as I go. If I outline, I know the story. If I know the story, I don't bother to write it. (Same reasons why I don't read the end of books first: if I know the end, I don't bother to read it.)
BUT. This does not mean I don't need a bit of forethought.
I say I don't outline, but I do have a general idea of where the story is going. I need to know that much, at least, so I can set up the story. Without conflict, I don't have plot--so I need characters who can find that conflict and solve that conflict.
Even for people who don't outline like me, I do find it necessary to list out the main points I want to get to in the story. That way, if I feel as if I'm drifting or rambling, I check those main plot points. Does the rambly bit fit with one of the plot points? If so, I carry on. If not, I delete and start over.
And this is where the only problem with writing without outlines comes in for me. Sometimes, I get stuck. I have characters here and I need them there. And they don't want to go.
How do I build that bridge? I try to think of logical conclusions. Going backwards often helps. What do I need them to do? What, logically, would make them want to do it, or need to do it?
So, how about you? How do you get un-stuck?
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
- Love-hate relationship: You love it. SO much. Like forevers love. But even though you think this is the ONE, you also sometimes sort of hate it. Does it have to be so stubborn about change? Does it have to keep you awake at night? 'Course, we all know those violently passionate ones: the fights are bitter, but the make-up sweet. So even though you struggle with this manuscript, you know it'll be SO worth it. Unless, of course, you break up first.
- Sticky-sweet love: You love it like forever. You write it's name in your notebook, dotting the "i"s with hearts. You picture it in the bookstore, waiting for you. You adore it. ...but you love it so much, you'll never change it, not really. And that picture of it in the bookstore, waiting for you, is probably never going to happen in real life because you can't change it.
- The bad-boy relationship: You're always fighting. You want to go one way, it wants to go another. Your loved ones tell you he's not good for you, but you ignore them. You know you can make this one work, you can change him into the manuscript you want him to be...but sometimes you've just got to let go.
- The he's-just-not-that-into you relationship: You want to write mysteries. But YA is so hot right now! So you deny your true love and go for the pretty boy. But that sort of thing never works out...in the end, you're just going to hurt both of you.
- The baby-daddy relationship: You get so much from this one--I'm talking sequels. You started off with him, now you've got six more sequels running around the house. Problem is, you're only with him 'cause you got so much invested in him. Not only have you worked with him, but think of all the time you spent working on the little ones that came after him. You can't let go of him, can you? But remember: writing shouldn't be monogamous. Branch out, find new loves!
- True love relationship: You love it. It loves you. When you're together, you're both singing. Sure, there's hard times. But you work them out together, never in a frustrated, oh-just-fine sort of way, but in a compromising, give and take sort of way. You accept his weaknesses and work to fix them. You focus more on what will make him better.
Monday, April 20, 2009
If you scroll a bit :) I figured this way, people who want to know about contests can find them easily, and those that don't care won't be bothered with new posts.
And in particular, I want to point out the lovely contest being held by the lovelier Heather over at The Secret Adventures of WritingGirl! It's for any book your little heart desires, so be sure to enter!
And, if you've not entered yet, Robyn's giving away a copy of The Hunger Games, easily one of my top books of the year.
So, if you'd like to know
When I started the blog, I started it mostly to be self-reflective and keep track of links that I liked. Then I started meeting other writers.
Personally, I feel that all writers should ask him or herself this question when they start thinking about publication: am I in it for the fun of writing, or am I in it for the fun...and for publication?
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Angela Cerrito posted about the Katherine Paterson prize for YA/MG.
Reviewer X is giving away a copy of Silver Phoenix!
Look at a breakdown of a NYC Bestselling Author's royalty statement. I'm so glad Lynn Viehl was willing to share her experience with us. It gives us pre-pubbed authors a glance at what royalty statements really mean.
Click here to find out what's been inspiring me all this week. Susan Boyle is a quirky Scottish lady who wants to be a singer. She got onto a British TV show called Britain's Got Talent (similar to American Idol). Everyone was laughing at her from the moment she walked on stage. She looked like a sad, single, cat-lady who shouldn't dream past the church choir. But when she opened her mouth to sing...wow. Which reminds me--no matter how much I don't think I should be a writer, or how little faith I have in my chances...I should still try. Maybe I can have an auditorium of screaming fans like that, too.
You know you want an afghan. Why not buy one from my super-talented mother-in-law?
Christina Farley gave me a blog award! :)
The Lemonade Stand Award is awarded for great Gratitude and /or Attitude.
In return, I'd like to nominate:
Last, but not least... Tomorrow, I am going to be interviewed by the fabulous Robyn of Putting Pen to Paper...so be sure to check it out!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
...when your writing morning is interrupted by your husband bringing home the turkey he shot this morning while hunting, and you then have to spend the next three hours helping to clean and butcher it.
I had blood up to my elbows, y'all.
I need a shower.
Anyone wanna come by for dinner?
Friday, April 17, 2009
Throughout the day, I'm going to be updating my status on writing. My goal? 10k words in one day. Heck yeah.
Woke up after a crazy dream in which my mom got turned into a washing machine during a family vacation in Japan. For some reason, my father, brother, and I still decided to go to Tokyo Tower...but I got left behind in the subway with my mother the washing machine. I fought off a Japanese gang by yelling French at them. I believe I've mentioned it was a crazy dream? Off to eat Toaster Streudels to forget about it!
-At the start of the day: 31k words done.
-10:30 is later than I wanted to get started, but Toaster Struedels and a shower and taking the dog out take priority. Argh. Stupid need to not stink.
-Just realize that I'd rather write than shower. Sounds like a good "You might be a writer if..." joke.
-Just realize that I'm writing this to not actually get started on writing the novel. The novel is a bit intimidating. But I'm bigger than it, and I'll beat it up if I have to, and I'll take it's lunch money and call it a pansy. Hope it doesn't have a mean older sister.
-Crap. Remembered today is #queryday. Trying hard to ignore it.
-10:41. Crapcrapcrap! Turning away from #queryday!
-10:45. Look at ms. Hate everything I wrote last night.
-11:45. 32k words...but that's after cutting nearly 500 words. Boy am I mean to these characters, though.
-11:55. Must break for lunch...and then I must do a week's worth of dishes.
-6:19pm. Quick update. As my father was coming over for supper, I had to wash the dishes (otherwise, they never would have gotten done, trust me!) So, I wash the dishes...then I have to clear all the junk off the table...then I have to vaccuum...then, just when I sit down to start writing again (literally I had just loaded up the document), my father arrives at the house an hour early! So I had to jump up, forgo writing for a while longer, cook supper, wash up...but on the bright side, the father took the husband out for the night to the family cabin in the mountains so they can go turkey hunting tomorrow. So it's just me and the dog, with the crickets in the background, and ALL NIGHT to write! FINALLY! And I've got so much guilt piled on right this second that I'm not even bothering to check email/blogs/twitter...after this update, straight back to work!
-6:38. You know that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when everyone on set screams "GET ON WITH IT!" I totally feel that way about this scene I'm working on.
-7:04. I need more Easter candy.
-7:14. I'm worried I use onomatopoeia too much.
-7:28. Just killed the second victim. It's at about 32k words...I'm worried that's too long in the book to just be getting to the second murder. But not worried enough that I'm going to stop writing. Just trying to keep track of my thoughts for when I do turn to revisions.
-7:38. 32,700 words. And I'm making the second murder count. *evil grin*
-7:40. Just realized that I've only done 2k of my 10k goal. Stupid goal. *grumbles*.
-7:44. Ugh. I'm grossing myself out with this dead body description.
-7:51. Stopping for some quick research online on poison.
-8:32. When I stopped for some "quick research online," I ended up watching The Daily Show with Jon Stuart. I'm making up for this lapse by chugging a Mountain Dew. Yellow dye #5, do your worst!
-9:16. When it gets hard to write, I tend to write shorter chapters. Don't know if this is good or bad...
-9:29. Yellow dye #5 did little to help. I'm taking a breather--15 minutes and then back on track!
-10:18. My 15 minute breather turned into 45 minutes. It's because I picked up Poison Study...but it did make me realize something. It's good to make promises, and then slowly answer them. In Poison Study, Yalena is a food-taster; her job is to discover poison in the Commander's food. Obviously, her job promises at least an attempt of someone to poison the Commander--and therefore her. This is making me think about what sort of inferred promises I've made with my characters---and how I can dangle the fulfillment of that promise in front of the character (and jerk it away, and dangle it again, etc. etc.)
-11:04. 34k words. I am clearly not going to make 10k words today--I've only made 3k, and I'll be lucky to make 2k more. But I've got a clearer idea of the "dots"...and now I just need to connect them.
-11:16. It's weird to write words that I know without a doubt I'll cut/change/rearrange later. But I've got to get those words down before I can get the next ones down. It sounds strange even to me, I know. *sigh*
-11:41. 35,600 words. I got it back. Those quick words are coming back.
-12:22. 36k words. That's a little over 5k words written today. And I think that's just about my limit. Besides, it's no longer Friday!
I found it helpful to live-blog. Sometimes, just venting my frustration with a passage helped me get back on track. Sometimes logging on and realizing how many minutes/hours it's been since I last wrote reminded me to keep track.
In the end, I've got one scene I like, one scene I LOVE, and a few short scenes that I think will have to be cut/revised pretty heavily...but the dots have been laid out, and some of the lines connected, and in the end, it was just a good writing day. Hurrah!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
How about some live-blogging of writing? Edited to add:
Coming up for air at about 4:30. Completely rewrote on chapter; added about 1,000 words. Back to the grindstone! As of now, 27,700 words written.
It took me 28 k words, but the present tense voice is coming so naturally to me that now when I see a past tense verb, it looks odd.
At 28600 words, Easter candy revitalizes me.
29k words: Ugh. Must stop. Laundry must be taken in from the lines, supper must be cooked. Blergh. I need a housemaid. Or ten.
Ha! Ordered pizza! Take THAT housewifery duties!
9:00. I may have ordered pizza, but the husband still insisted that I eat in an orderly fashion, with him. I offered to eat the pizza at the new desk and he could sit in the room with me while I typed. He refused. Family time ensued, much to my chagrin. Also: found this and had to watch it three times.
9:04. Make that four times.
9:30: 30k words. But I've written myself into a corner. Back to the notes.
Poke the husband. "I am stuck," I say. "Leave me alone," he says. "I have only two more pages of my book." Poke. Poke. Poke. "WHAT?" he says. Hmph. "Nothing," I say.
9:40. I might have gotten out of that corner. Maybe. But I feel as if I'm rambling. Ah, well, that's what cuts are for!
9:53. Yes. I am out of the rut. But I've had to abandon One Really Good Idea. It didn't fit. That sucks.
10:26. 31k words. I don't think I can think straight any longer.
But I'm shooting for 40k words tomorrow. And I'll live blog it all day!
I'll update this as I go!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
But Spring Break has, so far, involved mostly Easter candy, America's Next Top Model marathons, and sleep, all three of which I have missed sorely.
I had fine excuses. Oh, such fine excuses.
I cannot write, I said, without a writing space. Preferably one without Tyra Banks, as she is very pretty but sometimes scary and always distracting. Therefore, I cleaned the office.
Oh, and look! Bookshelves! Crammed with lots of books! This is my MG/YA shelves. I've got another non-fiction shelf, a tiny bookcase for romances/mysteries/other genres I rarely read but sometimes love, and another shelf dedicated to my favoritest books of all time. Also, if you look closely, you'll see books stacked on the floor between the wall and the shelf, and a basket of books on the console by the wall! PS: Hey, Heather, if you zoom in beside the broom, you'll see my Fullmetal Alchemist collection--that whole bottom shelf is manga!
So now I had a clean office. But I could not write still. The desk in the office is full of my PC--and my book is on my Mac laptop. Those two don't play well together. So my excuse became: I don't have anywhere to type on my laptop...except on the couch....in front of the TV, next to the candy bowl.
The husband is having none of that.
He is building me a desk. A special desk, all for me and my writing.
When we bought the house we live in now, there were recessed shelves in the bedroom. One of those shelves is the one I've dedicated to my favoritest books of all time. The other shelf was designd to hold a TV, but I don't believe in TVs in bedrooms--I worry that Tyra Banks will come from the screen a la The Ring and force us to wear Covergirl makeup.
Previously this space has been used as a sort of stack-up-whatever-fits-here sort of place. My wedding bouquet (made of fake flowers) stood in place of the TV, old photo albums filled the bottom shelves, and just general stacks of paper filled in the leftover space. Not really appealing. So the husband took my roughshod drawing of "Beth's Desk of Hope and DOOM" and begun work.
And, of course, this means that I have no more excuses not to work! This entire space is going to be 100% dedicated to writing. The top shelf is already filled on one side with stacked letter trays, each dedicated to a manuscript, or research, or some other form of writing. The middle shelf will hold a computer monitor (once I save enough $$ to buy one), and the little shelf under that will hold the keyboard/mouse when I have to clear the desk space for either my laptop or for physical pages of the manuscript.
In short: no more excuses.
And just in case I try to weasel my way out of further work, here's the husband's "gentle" reminder for me to get back to work!
First, my crit partner Robyn's son is going in for surgery today. And yesterday fellow blogger Willow posted about finding out that her son has autism. Please drop by and share some writerly love to both these awesome gals.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
But no longer. I decided that today must be Clean Office day. (And I refuse to admit that when I get stuck on writing, I clean things. I won't admit it. But I will say that it is perhaps a good thing that I get stuck when writing, or I'd never clean anything.)
Be that as it may, as I was picking piles of books up from the office floor, reorganizing shelves, etc., I ran out of book shelf space. Literally. Tomorrow I'll post pics, if possible, but for now, trust me: I have filled two floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and two more smaller bookshelves up to their maximum capacity. More than once I tried to cram one more book onto the shelf...and the entire row of books burst from the end.
So, I packed up a bag full of books to take to the library donation box, and I still had twelve YA and MG books left over. Some where newer titles, some were hardbacks and some (I am ashamed to admit) I had not even read yet.
But my lack of bookshelves = your opportunity for free books. This month and next month I'll be doing a big give-away of books: 6 YA books and 6 MG books!
Which leaves me with just one question: which should I start with, YA or MG?
While I liked the Editor Rent formula for doing a tagline, I felt that it left out some of the thing necessary for creating an entire pitch paragraph for the query. Normally I wouldn't worry about this sort of thing until the book is finished, but right now all my crit partners are saying the first half that I do have done is running a bit long and I need to get to the point. So, I am hoping that by developing a query pitch, I'll help my mind refocus on the most essential parts of the story.
Structure: Typically, when I write a query, I like to start off with an interesting tagline (or hook), then give the book details, then give a longer summary of the book (the pitch paragraph), and end with a short bio. This structure works for me--you do what works for you.
Tagline: After thinking a lot about everything you guys said, I think I'm going with a simplified version of the first tagline I developed yesterday:
After a teen girl wakes up early from cryogenic freezing, she must work with the future leader of the space ship to find the person who is unplugging (and thereby killing) the other cryogenically frozen people...before her parents are unplugged.
Pitch Paragraph: One thing I did quite like about the Editor Rent formula was the concept that some of the things you don't use in your tagline, you should use in your query pitch. Some of the elements from the first list (such as the secret the kids have to decide whether to tell or not) I do want to include. But, one thing that I think needs to be most emphasized in the pitch paragraph is the external and internal plot. The external and internal conflict are the things that make the story interesting (imo, at least), the things that keep a reader reading. It's what adds the blunt-force action and the deep inner struggle that both keeps the reader on the edge of his seat and makes him care about the characters.
- External conflict: Someone is killing off the cryogenically frozen people
- Internal conflict: The boy must cope with the fact that he actually had a role in helping the killer (by accident); the girl must cope with the fact that her parents are frozen and she is not. Also: when in pursuit of the killer they discover a secret about the ship, they have decide whether or not to tell everyone or let them live in happy ignorance.
Amy and Elder should never have met. After all, Amy was born on Earth, cryogenically frozen before boarding a space ship with her parents. Elder was born on the ship, part of the generations of crew that keep the ship running until it finally arrives, after centuries of travel, on the new planet. But when someone wakes Amy up fifty years early, Elder saves her from dying during the cyrogenic malfunction. But was it a malfunction? When more and more frozen people are unplugged, Amy and Elder work together to figure out who is killing them. The murderer, however, has a plan: use his strategic killing to make Elder, who is next in line to rule the ship, discover a terrible secret. Now Amy and Elder must decide: is it better to tell the truth or let everyone else live in happy ignorance?
Note: Some of the stuff didn't make it into the pitch--such as Elder's role in setting off the murderer. Every time I tried to add it, I started adding too much extra detail, and explaining more and more stuff that wasn't needed. It is important also to keep this paragraph short, so I cut that detail, hoping that the resolution of telling or not telling the secret would be enough of an internal conflict, and trusting that Amy's thoughts/feelings about waking up without her parents could be inferred.
After a teen girl wakes up early from cryogenic freezing, she must work with the future leader of the space ship to find the person who is unplugging (and thereby killing) the other cryogenically frozen people...before her parents are unplugged.
A LONG WAY HOME is a YA science fiction light on science but strong in character development, such as Mary Pearson's THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX. The novel is complete at X words. Because of your work with X, I thought this novel might appeal to you.
Amy and Elder should never have met. After all, Amy was born on Earth, cryogenically frozen before boarding a space ship with her parents. Elder was born on the ship, part of the generations of crew that keep the ship running until it finally arrives, after centuries of travel, on the new planet. When someone wakes Amy up fifty years early, Elder saves her from dying during the cyrogenic malfunction. But was it a malfunction? As more and more frozen people are unplugged, Amy and Elder work together to figure out who is killing them. The murderer, however, has a plan: use his strategic killing to make Elder, who is next in line to rule the ship, discover a terrible secret. Now Amy and Elder must decide: is it better to tell the truth or let everyone else live in happy ignorance?
I am currently a high school world literature teacher and an active member of SCBWI, having been published in and working as the copy editor of the state SCBWI magazine. Additionally, I run a blog on writing for MG and YA audiences which receives about 75 hits a day.
I am prepared to submit the entire manuscript upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration with this project.
Final Thoughts: Looking at this and comparing it to my writing progress, I see that I am going to have to cut a lot. I've written about 25k words (about 100 pages), but have only just now gotten to the first murder. My pace for the first half of the novel is slow, and I am going to have to focus on tightening the storyline and bringing up the murders in the first half, either through cutting extraneous stuff (more likely) or adding in a few chapters of foreshadow and tension. I'm not doing that now, though--now, I'm focusing on finishing the novel! But by developing the query first, especially the pitch paragraph, I have readjusted my focus and I have a clear idea of how to revise before I start knocking down people's doors for beta reading. :)
PS: Feel free to give any comments you'd like--I'm always looking to perfect this sort of thing!
Monday, April 13, 2009
See, I'm about halfway into my new WIP (and still madly in love with it, btw), but I am already worrying about the query and tagline development. I've got two protagonists and a super complicated way to tie them together--after all, it's taking me a novel to get their story right.
Then I found this.
Editor Rent suggests to make a list of features about your book:
The protagonist: ________________
(Use an adjective plus a common noun rather than his name. "Laidback wanderer" tells me more than "Bob Gomez.")
(Romance writers need to do this twice, once for the hero and once for the heroine.)
The goal/reward: ________________
(What's the best, biggest thing the protagonist wants to happen? Aim for something tangible. "Find true love" is less compelling than "convert her garage into mother-in-law quarters.")
The obstacle(s): __________________
(Again, be concrete and specific. "She needs $10,000." Not, "she has low self-esteem and is afraid to love.")
The antagonist: __________________
(Doesn't have to be a person. Should be tangible. Snidely Whiplash or a blizzard.)
Consequence of failure: ___________
(If she doesn't get ten grand to build separate quarters for her mother-in-law, then That Woman will be in her house. All. The. Time.)
(This can be a bit more abstract. Motives are often based in emotions.)
Challenge to self-image: __________
(How does all this make your character question his character? Put another way, fill in this blank: "Until this all happened, my character used to think he was______.")
Inciting Event: ___________________
(The first event that kicks everything off. Nursing home kicks m-i-l out because she keeps stealing the other patients' candy.)
Ticking Clock: ____________________
(What do you mean, your character doesn't have a deadline? Give her one.)
Important steps taken: ____________
(Three things the protagonist does to achieve her goal. Take out a bank loan, hire a contractor, pick out appliances.)
Final reversal : __________________
(The last bad thing that happens before everything flips around and becomes happy again. Sometimes referred to as the black moment.)
(What does your protagonist get in the end? Might not be what she wants. Scarlett wanted Ashley for like eleven thousand pages, but in the end, she wanted Rhett.)
And then put them all together.
So here's mine:
The protagonist (1): A boy born on a generation space ship, already pegged to be the future leader of the ship
The protagonist (2): A girl from Earth who has been cyrogenically frozen and is supposed to wake up when the ship lands on a new planet
The goal/reward: For both of them: find a home, a place to belong. (But this does go against the idea of finding something tangible. OK, focus, Beth.) (Upon further reflection: I think a lot of my original problem was the order of events--I had a hard time coming up with the goal/reward before I thought of the problem/consequences--so I'm moving this one down the ladder a bit.)
Problem: I added this one--because my character's problems come from outside sources happening to them, not an internal desire they cannot achieve. Anyway, Problem: Someone is killing the cryogenically frozen people on ship.
Inciting Event: The girl is "unplugged" from her sleep--although she is almost killed, she survives--and now is awake fifty years before the ship is scheduled to land.
The goal/reward: If they discover the murderer, they will prevent more people from dying--such as the girl's parents, who are still frozen.
The obstacle(s): There are a limited number of people on board the ship who even know about the cryogenically frozen people, and of those who do, it seems impossible that any of them are the murderer.
The antagonist: The murderer!
Ticking Clock: If they don't find the murderer soon, he could kill the girl's parents.
Consequence of failure: Dead parents!
Motive: Motive for girl: save parents. Motive for boy: help girl cuz he's in lurve. Motive for murderer: it's a sekkrit.
Challenge to self-image: When, in solving the mystery, the two discover a terrible secret on the ship, they must decide whether it is better to bring the truth to light, or let the others live in happy ignorance.
Important steps taken: Boy: sekkrit thing not revealed till end, challenges his current leader, confesses sekkrit thing. Girl:
(Three things the protagonist does to achieve her goal. Take out a bank loan, hire a contractor, pick out appliances.)
Final reversal : A side character will do something really dark that will affect the two MCs...but this isn't something I think I should reveal in a tagline.
Outcome: Boy and girl find a way to turn where they are living into home.
SO....putting these all together, what do I get?
According to Editor Rent, here's the purpose of doing the list:
Now, here's what you do. Pick any two or three items on the list, and mash them together into a single sentence. Then pick a different two or three items, and mash those. Lather. Rinse. Repeat until you hit on a combo that sizzles. And there's your log line. Lead off a pitch with a sizzling, story-specific log line, and whoever is listening will have a "hook" to hang the rest of the pitch on. ...
Added bonus: You can use the rest of the worksheet to draft the rest of your pitch.
- After a teen girl who's been cyrogenically frozen on a generation space ship is woken up fifty years before the ship's due to land on a new planet, she must work with the future leader of the ship to find the person who is unplugging (and thereby killing) the other cryogenically frozen people...before her parents are unplugged.
- When a boy born on a space ship desitined for a new Earth discovers a hidden level of the ship filled with cryogenically frozen people, he must adjust what he previously thought to be true after one of the people wakes up early.
- After two teens on a generation space ship discover a plot to kill the cryogenically frozen people on board, they also discover a terrible secret about the ship, and must decide whether it's better to tell the truth or let everyone else live in happy ignorance.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
Kid: Mrs. Revis! I have to go to the bathroom. I need a tissue...I have an issue...in my nose.
Little skinny kid who might weigh a buck puts on her bookbag....and tips over backwards! Her bookbag weighed more than her!
Kid: Gah, Mrs. Revis! I wrote the sentence, isn't that enough? Are you telling me I have to spell everything and use punctuation, too?!
Kid: This is English class, Mrs. Revis. Why are we reading all this stuff from Japan?
Me: It's a World Literature class. World Literature.
Kid: How long has it been like that?!
Note: This one is a bit PG13. Also: It is gross.
Kid: Sniff my hands!
Me: (speaking from experience) No way!
Kid: *thrusts hands under nose*
Me: UGH! What is that? That is foul!!
Kid: (very proud of herself) We cut off bull testicles in agriculture class today! And I didn't wash my hands!
(Yes. I work in a school so redneck as to have bulls and classes where dangly bits of the bulls are removed. There are also goats.)
What's the first thing you notice about the book? Yup, the cover. And there's a lot of new covers coming out soon.
First, we've got up for your viewing pleasure Carrie Ryan's sequel, The Dead Tossed Waves. The cover photo was shot by the same photographer who did the original cover, and the similarities are present here, but subtle--the hair blowing in the wind, the muted woven shirt, the background linked to the title.
What do you think? Personally, I love it and think it matches the sequel perfectly.
Oh, and ya know what? I know who the girl on the cover is!!!! :)
Now you didn't think I'd leave you with just one new cover, did ya? Nope, here's the latest from PJ Hoover: the cover to the sequel to The Emerald Tablet.
The Navel of the World cover is a little bit of a departure from The Emerald Tablet cover (art vs. photograph), but my favorite thing about this cover is the steps leading up. It draws your eyes right up to the title, sucking you into the book itself.
Edited to add:
When I woke up this morning, I saw that Justine Larbalestier is channeling my ideas! She released this week the US and Australian cover of her latest work, Liar. And they are very different. First, the Australian cover.
It's red--reminds me a bit of blood actually. It is also something along the lines of what Justine herself asked for: "I asked for something spare, iconic, cool and dark. Possibly a typographical treatment. "
Before I comment on it, let's look at the American version of the cover.
Do you like this one better? I think it still captures the darkness Justine wanted, but it's a different sort of darkness. In the Aussie version, the darkness is bloody, physical, but in the US version, the darkness is creepy, psychological.
Personally, I like the US version better. And in comparing the two, I realized that, in general, I prefer books with photographs on the cover. And I do prefer those photographs to be artistic in some way, whether an interesting and different shot of a person (A Great and Terrible Beauty comes to mind as well) or a photograph of a scene from the book that invites the reader in. Although I can name a few covers that aren't photographs that I like, I do think that, in general, those are the covers I'm most attracted to.
So, how about you? What kinds of covers are you attracted to?
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Me: The samurai in this story acted cowardly. What should he do, according to the samurai code?
Kid: He should do Sudoku!
Anyway, I was flying for a bit. The chapters just rolled off me, and the story came so easily that I made sure to keep my iTouch with me so I could type notes as the inspiration hit.
And then I got a bit stuck.
I'm not calling it writer's block; I don't believe in writer's block.
But nothing worked, and I was stuck.
See, what I wanted to do was show the world. I thought I'd have two chracters go for a ride through the countryside, one explaining the world to another, but that felt dry, even after I figured out how to use that scene to bring in some character development, too. It just felt so contrived to me to show the world by having the characters drive through it. I knew, deep down, that was the easy way out. I was being lazy.
But still, I did need the one character to be a witness for the reader, and for her to see the world and explain it in her voice. But I was writing pages and pages of flat, dry scenes so I could manuever her out of her room and into the countryside so she could describe it.
I paced the halls.
I tried to skip that scene and write other chapters, but I stalled like a dying car.
I ignored it. Stupid book. Who wants to write it, anyway?
And, quite by accident, as I was getting into my car this morning to go to work, it hit me.
Why don't I just have her look out the blinking window?
I didn't beat my head against the car, but I probably should have. DUH! If I need her to give just a quick description of the world, but don't want to waste all the time setting up how she'll go out into it, she could just freaking look outside. It was so obvious. All those pages and pages built up to have a chapter to get her and the other character driving through the country--gone. All she does now is peek outside, make a few comments to herself about how different this world is to the one she knows, and done.
The simplest answer is usually best...but usually the last one that occurs to me!
So, do you do that? Do you struggle and struggle over a scene, just to suddenly realize there's an incredibly simple solution to it?
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Today my class read Ryunsuke Akutagawa's story "In a Grove." In it, one character says another character, a samurai, did nothing to provoke anger.
Me: So, what does the old lady say about the samurai?
Kid: He was provocative!
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Nathan Bransford's Agent for a Day
Knight Agency Book in a Nutshell
Page Flipper's Signed Copy of Wake
Jodi Piccoult Signed Copies
Miss Snark's New Secret Agent Contest
Ok! Back to your previously schedule blog tour!
Monday, April 6, 2009
After a scene where it looks like the main character, played by Tom Cruise, is going to die:
Kid 1: Oh no! They're going to kill him!
Kid 2: Shut up, they're not going to kill Tom Cruise.
If you ever get a chance to watch a room full of kids watching a movie, do it. They are so funny!!!
I conceived the idea, or rather Billie Holiday, my muse, planted it in my head, in early Spring 2006. I initially resisted, doubting that young adults would be interested in a long-dead jazz legend. Then, a chance encounter with a 14-year-old Billie fan in front of the singer's likeness at Baltimore's Great Blacks in Wax Museum convinced me of Lady Day's enduring appeal.
I ordered Billie's early CDs so I could listen to her music on my 100-mile, twice-weekly commute. I also ordered several biographies, which I cracked open when the spring semester ended. After deciding that the poems should be titled after Billie's songs, I printed a discography. Episodes from her life suggested musical backdrops, and the poems poured out of me. Some days, I wrote two or three poems. In retrospect, the only explanation is that I must have channeled Billie.I emailed the manuscript to my editor and received an offer 24 hours later. How unusual is that!? The entire process was rather magical.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
I am such a winner! LitGirl from Words, Words, Words graciously honored me with the PremioDardos award! THANK YOU!
*clears throat* I'd like to thank all the people who helped me along the way...
Oh, wait. You wanna find out who won the signed copy of Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth and the swag from the launch party?
You realllllly wanna know?
Well, I listed everyone out (over a hundred entries, once I counted up all the points) and did a random number generator online. And...
Jen, please drop me an email at bethrevis (at) gmail (dot) com with your snail mail address so I can get the book and swag to you ASAP!
Friday, April 3, 2009
Have you ever met a celebrity? I once sat two rows in front of Tyne Daly in the Globe Theater and spent much of King Lear stammering at her. I turn into a complete idiot around fame.
Which would explain why, when I opened my email and saw that Carrie Ryan had not only sent me her interview but also a jpeg of the new cover for the sequel of her book, I screamed, jumped for joy, and ran around the room shouting in glee. Squee ensued. I had not seen the new cover before, and I. Adore. It. And I totally felt like a member if the in-group when I got to see it early. I squeed as much over that as over the cover.
Dude. It's awesome.
And you'll have to wait for Carrie to reveal in on Monday to see it.
And you'll have to wait until Sunday to find out who won the signed copy of The Forest of Hands and Teeth and swag.
But what you don't have to wait for is Carrie's interview. It's right here!
We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?
I love to sing and I am HORRIBLE at it. But really, I love to drive around with the windows rolled down and the volume blasting and belt out some songs.
As a child, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?
I loved Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson. My dad read it onto a tape for me as a gift for my seventh birthday and I listened to it every night as I fell asleep for years! I pretty much read anything as a child and I’m the same way now!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
For a long time I wanted to be a doctor – I loved biology class and loved learning the intricacies of the human body. I almost did it too… but then decided it wasn’t the right career for me after all.
How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?
I’m actually really surprised at how little of me is in the book. Everything I’d written before had pieces of me in it and with The Forest of Hands and Teeth I wanted to try something totally different so I created a character that wasn’t like me at all. But I still think there are some parts of me that snuck in. There’s a scene where the main character is questioning what right she has to believe her dreams can come true. That was taken from an email I sent to my fiancé when I was wondering what right I had to believe my dream of publishing a book would come true.
What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?
I started the book for NaNoWriMo in November 2006 and finished the first draft April 2007. I revised it a lot over the next few months and would spend the time my beta readers were going over it researching agents. Finally in August my critique partner realized I was scared to send it out and she pushed me to submit. I signed with an agent in September and he sold the book in October!
I think at each stage I was both excited and terrified. I really felt like The Forest of Hands and Teeth was the best book I’d written and I loved the story. This was really exciting but I was also really afraid that I would mess it up!
If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?
Oh, what a hard question! I love that readers can take away different emotions and ideas from books – that every reader will see something different. It’s hard for me to say what I’d hope someone else would see, but I like to think that readers walk away with a desire to question the world around them and a belief in hope and dreams.
What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?
My goals as a writer are pretty simple: I hope to keep writing and hopefully keep selling!
What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
Wow, there are too many things to list! It shouldn’t have been surprising, but I’m always so overwhelmed by how wonderful the writing community is.
Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?
To write. I really do think it’s easy to get wrapped up in all these extraneous things and forget that at the end of the day it’s all about writing.
What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?
My weakness is probably remembering to describe things. I never see my characters clearly in my head so I have a hard time describing what they look like. I like to think that one of my strengths is writing the emotion of the characters.
What's a writing pet peeve that you have?
Repeated words. I totally end up repeating words a lot in the first draft and I spend every revision trying to cull them out. I also tend to notice this in books I read as well (even though I try hard not to!).
Carrie, THANK YOU so much for answering my interview questions...and for sending me a preview of the cover which I can now lord over my blog readers about! :)
And don't forget to enter the contest, everyone!